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In The Arena

Let’s hold the applause

One again, American taxpayers pay

So, are we supposed to stand up and applaud now?

Or maybe we should send a bouquet to our “leaders” in Congress to thank them for finally doing their job and keeping us from flying off the “fiscal cliff” (a moniker that I am all too happy to finally see retired)? Well, I’d like to, but I’m kind of busy trying to figure out how I’m going to replace the $1,000 these guys just took out of my pocket with that pesky little 2 percent increase in the Social Security tax.

What a strange nation we live in, where taking more money of out people’s pockets suddenly becomes a badge of honor. Pundits are already spinning this is a victory for President Obama, and it is, in the only game that seems to count these days in Washington. He beat the Republicans and, as a result, a lot of Americans, especially the rich ones, will pay $260 billion more of what they earn to a government, which will clearly find ways to spend it — along with a whole lot of other money it doesn’t really have.

And though this was only supposedly a tax increase on “the rich,” the truth is that 77 percent of American households will pay more federal taxes under this plan. The economic impact of those increases will be something to keep an eye on, but it could have been much worse had a deal not been struck, which brings me to the really unsettling part of this little dance. It disgusts me how cavalier these so-called public servants were about using us as bait in their little game of partisan chicken, fueled largely by the media, who bought into it, as it is wont to do in situations like this.

Only an arrogance borne of incumbency in a country full of politically apathetic zombies could create the stage for something as abhorrent as this “debate,” that may have presented the best example seen yet of the need to tear down this two-party political system or, at the very least, dispatch the most toxic elements within it, and replace them with people more interested in protecting the country than their own self-interests.

I hold out no hope that this will happen in my lifetime, but this is the New Year, and we can dream, which, at the rate we’re going, may soon be the only non-taxable thing left.

On to guns

Now that the fiscal cliff nonsense is behind us, I expect the focus will shift to guns, with the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre still fresh in our collective minds. But what will be interesting is to see whether the target winds up being illegal ownership of assault weapons or all legal gun ownership.

Here in Massachusetts, we already have a law banning assault weapons, one that some federal officials are pointing to as a possible model for national legislation, which Franklin-Hampshire state Sen. Stan Rosenberg said would be a common-sense approach to deal with a serious problem, while still protecting the constitutional rights of legal gun owners.

“I’ve never seen anyone who needs an assault weapon to go hunting, and anyone who argues that the Constitution allows you to use any weapon for hunting, including assault rifles, isn’t making sense,” Rosenberg said. “Those weapons are not about defending yourself and they aren’t about hunting — they are designed simply to do harm, and this is the only country where ownership of these types of weapons by civilians is allowed.”

And while Congress grapples with the assault weapon bill, here in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick is using Sandy Hook as an impetus to resurrect a bill that had been left to die in committee, one that would prevent residents from being allow to purchase more than one gun per month — a measure even Rosenberg says may have problems passing this Legislature.

“Most people don’t need to buy more than one gun per month, but there are exceptions, like gun collectors, people who buy and sell guns,” Rosenberg said. “But I think rational people can come up with sensible policy that allows people to own a limited number of weapons and ensure that they are secured and locked down and not stolen for criminal use.”

“The truth is that the average person doesn’t even need one gun, but I don’t think you will find much support in the Legislature for preventing people from buying any gun,” Rosenberg added.

Let’s hope his colleagues feel that way when it comes time to begin drafting that legislation.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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